We are all familiar with Facebooks’ eponymous product, but unless you work at one of the 3000 organizations that avail it, chances are you are going to learn about “Workplace” for the first time here. Workplace is Facebook’s answer to Slack, tailored to help enterprises delegate tasks in an orderly fashion. Call it the “Corporate Facebook”, the company announced at a conference called “Flow” that Workplace is set to receive major upgrades. The addition of algorithmic feed, safety check, and an enhanced chat ensures that it matches the capabilities of Microsoft’s Slack in being the premier work enhancement app used by corporations.
The range of features introduced in Workplace puts it at par with core Facebook experience in terms of functionality. Its head Julien Codorniou has described it as “Facebook’s first SaaS startup.” The new features deepen employee engagement and thrive to foster an ecosystem that can adapt to any businesses. Since its launch in 2016, Workplace has picked up 30,000 business as customers, including Walmart, GSK, Astra Zeneca, and Chevron. Microsoft’s Slack, on the other hand, caters to 70,000 organizations worldwide.
The “chat” feature of Workplace has received the biggest update, providing users with the option to initiate chats, calls, and video conversations either one-to-one or in groups – similar to the style of Messenger or WhatsApp. Navigating through high volumes of messages and pinning them to the top of the list has been made easier by the introduction of an algorithmic sorting. Users can also access the “do-not-disturb’ feature in the app to help them focus on the task in hand.
Just as Facebook uses machine learning and AI to sort the news feed in the event of a prolonged absence, similar algorithmic sorting is now being introduced to Workplace. This ensures that the most relevant information is on top, using signals from the user’s most active groups and who they most commonly work with. Substituting the chronological feed with an algorithmic one was requested by Workplace users, and Facebook had included it in the latest update.
The last feature to be introduced is the “Safety Check”. Delivered via Workchat, it functions as a tool that can be controlled by admins to monitor the status of employees during a critical incident. It puts IT managers/Workplace admins into the driver’s seat and gives them important keys to several features. In doing so, they can control the use and distribution of Workplace features that in regular Facebook is controlled by Facebook itself. Codorniou has stated that it allows companies “to track and clear who is safe and who is not” when a particular location has been through an emergency or critical incident. Augmenting safety check feature in Workplace eliminates the need to execute them via SMS or in the worst case, manually.
“Employees are a company’s number-one asset of the company, and this helps make sure you are safe,” he added. “People don’t want to play Candy Crush, but things like Live and Safety Check are relevant. They help turn companies into communities.” Another feature, Live, was added to Workplace in 2017.
Workplace already thrives on a standout feature that allows up to 50 companies to converse in multi-organizational conversations on the platform. Now, Workplace has enhanced that feature by allowing a direct channel to ensure follow-up discussions between select members of the larger conversation. Overall, by adding state-of-the-art features in Workplace – Facebook has strengthened the product to compete against Microsoft’s Slack.